New Delhi (Sputnik): India's National Commission for Women (NCW) has issued a strongly-worded notice to the chief secretary of Maharashtra in western India, highlighting the widespread mistreatment of women employed as seasonal sugar cane harvesters in the Beed district of the state. NCW contends that the migrant workers are treated like slaves, and are being forced to undergo hysterectomies so that their harvesting efforts aren't affected by pregnancy or menstruation.
The NCW @sharmarekha has taken suo moto cognizance in the matter of- "Women of Beed district of Maharashta have no wombs" urging the Cheif Secretary of Maharashtra to take swift and immediate action. NCW shall closely monitor this matter and the action taken in it. pic.twitter.com/e1fQcOrGXW— NCW (@NCWIndia) April 9, 2019
Although migrant worker families are desperate to obtain gainful employment and can earn enough to cover expenses for the entire year, cane cutting contractors do not wish to hire women who menstruate, as pregnancies and periods are looked upon as hindrances. The women, some as young as 25, are compelled to undergo hysterectomies, the English-language daily The Hindu reports.
The workers are hired as husband-wife duos. They are provided with production targets, and face costly penalties if these goals are not achieved. To avoid the risk of losing their livelihoods, the women agree to have their uterus removed.
An earlier Reuters report described the extent of the misery these field workers face. Because they are sterile, they are sexually abused by their men and sugar contractors alike, emboldened with the knowledge that this won't result in unwanted pregnancies. Because they live in tents on the sugar plantations, where they lack access to basic sanitation facilities, they are easy targets for rape and other forms of sexual abuse.